Sally walked along a tired concrete path. It was flanked on either side by evergreens, except they weren't green; they were black as if, even up close, they were silhouetted against the sunless pink and yellow sky. She felt like she had been walking for hours, but she kept speeding up. She wanted to put as much space as possible between herself and Daisy Chain – and his homicidal lingerie bunny. She couldn't get away from them fast enough. But she wasn't exactly comfortable on her own, either. Every sound made her heart jump and every crack in the pavement made her skin crawl. She couldn't shake the feeling that she was being watched, followed, plotted against and she had no idea how to wake herself up.
Sally's mind went back to the hunter. That's what the slutty rabbit had called him – that had been her excuse. The guy's a hunter. The guy was a hunter. No one dressed like that who wasn't, or didn't want people to think that they were. And that had been enough of a reason for Daisy Chain to condone his murder, apparently. Sally wasn't fond of hunters, as a breed. She couldn't figure out how anyone derived enjoyment from killing animals, and as for the hunt itself, tracking an unarmed creature of lower intelligence with gun from a safe distance didn't seem very sporting to her – but she wouldn't want to see someone killed for it; and the way he had died. She could still remember it, every detail, every ruby drop that had sprayed through the air, his face contorted in pain and fear and the way that, at the end, his eyes just went blank, and when he fell, there wasn't even a thud. Even sound had stopped caring about him.
She was angry with Daisy Chain. Not just angry with him; disgusted by him. She couldn't believe that her fuzzy, friendly childhood hero was actually a monster, a calculating killer, devoid of compassion and able to witness a murder with apathy. But he had saved her, hadn't he? She had stopped moving in the park and he had stayed back to protect her. If they had all rushed at once, that group of figments could have killed him and God only knew what would have happened to Sally if they had. And now, thanks to Daisy Chain, they didn't have a leader, they were wandering around Nod with no purpose, no direction—I hope they're not wandering anywhere near here, said a small voice, unearthing itself from her subconscious. Actually, she realized, she could be quite close to them – them or people like them. Daisy Chain had said that Nod was full of raiders. They could be anywhere.
Sally couldn't help imagining Thrib, leaking black ink, dragging his half-dead body after her, calling out her name. She smiled, just a little, when she realized that he would be calling out Thally, Thally, but when she thought of him using the lobster thing as his henchman, her smile faded. He could be out there, right now, looking for her.
A heavy hand landed on Sally's back.
“There you are,” Daisy Chain said, as Sally's heart slid down out of her throat. “What the Hell are you doing?”
“Let go of me!” Sally shouted. She tried to spring forward, but Daisy Chain tightened his grip on her shoulder. “Let me go!” It came out as a high-pitched shriek. Despite Sally's insistence, her struggles were in vain. “You let her kill that guy,” Sally hissed, still trying to pull free. “I saw you.”
“Yeah, I did. So what?”
Sally felt that she could have coped with almost any answer, have graciously accepted any offers of regret, but the callousness of his response made her sick. “I hate you,” she told him – and suddenly she could remember telling him the same thing all those years ago, when he'd told her she was never going to see him again. Sitting in the plastic yellow chair by her tea party table, too mad to get up and give him a hug goodbye.
Daisy Chain released Sally as she surged forward again and she fell onto her face. He did not offer to help her up. “This is the way life is here, now,” he told her. “That guy came here to hunt—to kill figments and steal our Dust. To get high. And I'm supposed to do what? Let it happen? Tell Charm-Charm, Sorry, I know hunters killed your whole family and they've been invading our world and murdering our children for centuries, but would you mind not killing this one; Sally's lurking in the bushes over there and it might upset her delicate stomach? I don't think so. Life is hard. It's ugly. Deal with it.”
Sally tried to pick herself up.
“I thought I was doing you a favour by bringing you here. I thought I could keep you safer if I kept you with me.”
Daisy Chain looked exhausted. He gave Sally his hand and hauled her upright. Once she was standing, he stepped back awkwardly, looked down and shoved his hand-paws into the pockets of his jeans. “I didn't mean for any of this, you know.”
“I know,” Sally heard herself say it before she was aware of having thought it – but it was true, it was written clearly on Daisy Chain's face. “But, the blood...”
Daisy Chain looked up at her, confused. “It wasn't blood, Sally. It was Dust.”
“I thought Dust was blue.”
“Some of it is. It depends who it comes from. She drained his Dust—”
“It looked like blood,” Sally muttered under her breath. “If it was Dust, why was it red?”
“Because blood is red.”
“I thought blood was red because of iron.”
“Maybe his Dust had iron in it. Stop trying to make sense of everything; you're wasting your time.”
“And the way he died—”
“He's not dead. I've tried to explain this to you. She drained his Dust, which means on Earth, he's a vegetable. Which is worse. And I hate to say it, Sally, but the same thing will happen to you.” He sighed a long, sad sigh and looked back at his feet. “It's my fault,” he told her. “They're only after you because of me.”
Sally was having trouble getting used to the speed of the place. Everything, including her own thoughts and emotions changed so quickly, without warning. Now she wanted to forgive Daisy Chain, hug him, to make him feel better. He looked so wounded, so vulnerable, so—“Are you wearing a thong?”
The question snapped Daisy Chain out of whatever revelry he had been lost to. He looked up at Sally. “Yeah. So?”
Sally glanced at the two red strips of fabric strung across Daisy Chain's boney hips and realized that they had always been there. Somewhat uncomfortably, she also realized that there was something decidedly close-minded about commenting on anyone's choice of underthings, most especially if that person was a giant talking rabbit. She tried not to let her eyes linger. The only appropriate answer was a non-committal one. “Ah,” she said.
There was some uncomfortable shifting on both sides.
“Look, I know you didn't mean for any of this,” Sally told him after a moment. “And I know you've been doing everything you've been doing to try to help me. But this place... I can't stay here. It's weird here. It's wrong.” She paused before adding, “Um, no offence.”
Daisy Chain shook his head. “None taken. Nod used to be beautiful. Parts of it still are. But between the raiders and the humans, it's a nightmare.”
It took a second for what he'd said to sink in and part of it caught in Sally's brain.
“Humans caused this?”
Daisy Chain shrugged. “Yeah. No offence.”
If you are enjoying Quicksand, please come back soon for the next chapter. In the meantime, you may like my novel Aigaion Girl.